(4 / 5)
Mention the music scene in 1960’s Britain and most pop fans would cite the ‘Mersey Beat’ or the ‘London Scene’ as being the back-beat for the burgeoning music revolution that was to hit Britain during that decade.
Liverpool, London and Manchester are obvious geographical centres for the sixties pop revolution; but Leicester? Not so obvious. That’s why Shaun Knapp’s book “High Flying Around – Memories of the 1960s Leicester Music Scene”, is an important and well-researched story that puts some lesser known, but none-the-less influential bands on the UK music map. Bands which would be responsible for stamping an indelible Leicester trade-mark on the UK music scene for decades to come.
Picture the scene: You are playing in a semi-pro band, enduring late nights, playing in clubs and pubs around the country, having to draw every spark from your brain and body to crawl back to your boring factory job the next day, with minimal sleep. Having to eat rubbish motorway services’ food, only to do it all over again the next night. So, the question is: Why?
Well, here’s one answer: You are booked to play the Speakeasy club in London and you do a version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe”, which happens to be in the charts. In the front row of the club is none other than Hendrix himself – hard to imagine now, but that’s exactly what happened to Leicester-based band Legay one night in 1967. “He stood up and applauded, he loved it,” recalls John Knapp, guitarist with Legay.
“High Flying Around – Memories of the 1960s Leicester Music Scene”, is not just another book about sixties pop music, or a book about pop bands from Leicester. It’s a social history of Leicester, during a time when Britain was embracing its new youth culture, a culture that hit the British establishment like a freight train! A valuable insight into the rapid social changes being embraced by cities like Leicester during the sixties, and in particular, the impact of pop music in Britain is given in a Foreword by Dr. Su Barton.
Part one covers the story of Legay, a band that almost made it into the big time, but didn’t. Instead, they trod a path for other bands who did make it big, to follow. Part two takes a more general look at the Leicester music scene: the venues like the Il Rondo, The Palais, The Nite Owl and The White Cat Café. The other bands on the circuit are also profiled: Cert X, Vfranie, The Beatniks, Pesky Gee!, The Farinas, The Roaring Sixties and Family.
Out of these less well-known names came worldwide acclaim for some musicians, and singer/songwriter and film maker Kenny Wilson tells how the Leicester music scene influenced him, as does singer/songwriter John Butler, who went on to form the band Diesel Park West in the ‘eighties.
We hear from members of Family: drummer Rob Townsend, who was previously with Legay and guitarist and vocalist John (Charlie) Whitney, who was also co-founder of the Klock Agency, booking out bands such as Legay and Pesky Gee! The two Family stars speak about Family’s bassist Ric Grech, who acrimoniously quit Family to pursue more lofty musical pursuits as part of Blind Faith, with Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker.
What makes this book un-put-downable is the relaxed style it is written in, with a consistent pace that wants you to find out more… what happened next? … how did it all end? Shaun Knapp has managed to combine a lot of biographical and factual information, and by entwining and reinforcing it with anecdotes from band members, managers and promoters who were there at the time, keeps the story alive and fresh.
The sub-cultures that were interlinked with soul and pop music of the‘sixties are also explored: mod life, the clothes, make-up and going out, are all part of this 1960s tour of Leicester. All of it relevant – 208 pages and 54 photographs/illustrations – and all adding context.
Shaun Knapp is ideally placed, and qualified, to tell this story; not only was he born and brought up in Leicester, the brother of Legay guitarist John Knapp, he spent twenty-five years of his life pumping out editorials and press releases about Leicester for the local City Council. With “High Flying Around – Memories of the 1960s Leicester Music Scene“, he acts as an expert and knowledgeable guide. Just put your Vespa scooter on its stand, let Shaun Knapp take you around the clubs and pubs, and go and hear the music…
By Geoff Carverhill
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’